BLACKSBURG, May 2, 2001 - A roster of nationally recognized experts will highlight the nation's first symposium on a nascent yet highly promising area of scientific inquiry, "GIS Applications to Bioinformatics." Sponsored by Virginia Tech, the symposium will be held in Blacksburg on May 16-17. 

"We are pleased to be the first to offer researchers in two of today's most dynamic analytical technologies the opportunity to explore the possibilities for breakaway R&D in areas where GIS [geographic information systems] and bioinformatics converge," said Virginia Tech Interim Provost James R. Bohland. The Office of the Provost is co-sponsoring the conference with the university's Office of GIS and Remote Sensing and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI), a Commonwealth of Virginia initiative located at the university.

James B. Campbell, professor and head of Tech's geography department, said the value of GIS analytical systems and data structures to bioinformatics, and the usefulness of bioinformatics methodologies to GIS pattern recognition and analysis, are only now being recognized. Campbell said some possible long-term outcomes of connecting the two investigative fields are improvements in the ability to understand the spread of human and animal disease; better control of disease outbreaks, for example the recent spread of hoof-and-mouth disease in Britain; better modeling of the spread of insect infestations, for example that of the gypsy moth in the United States; better monitoring of diseases such as rabies in wildlife populations; improvements in agricultural productivity; and reductions in the negative environmental impacts of some agricultural activities. "The cross-pollination of research that is a goal of the symposium could accelerate multiple outcomes not even yet envisioned," he said.

The symposium will be beneficial to almost all investigators in bioinformatics and GIS, Campbell said, particularly those with interests in GIS data structures, epidemiology, ecology, spatial analysis, bioinformatics, precision agriculture, pattern recognition, geostatistics, and genomics. The university will limit enrollment, he added, in order to increase the time allotted to "unfettered exploratory discussions."

The symposium's presenters and panelists include Campbell; VBI director Bruno Sobral of Virginia Tech; Carol Bult of the University of Maine at Orono; Stephanie Green of Washington State University; Carmelle Cote of ESRI, Inc.; L. W. Carstensen of Virginia Tech, Michael Goodchild of the University of California at Santa Barbara; Barbara Buttenfield of the University of Colorado; Randy Wynne of Virginia Tech; Goeff Jacquez of Biomedware, Inc.; John L. Havlin of North Carolina State University; and Clark Tibbetts of Virginia Tech.

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Published by Public Relations, May 01, 2001